Saludos de Lima! As we complete our first full day of immersion into the culture of Peru, we have received a warm welcome from our Christian Brother hosts, Brother Stephen Casey from New York and Brother Pablo Keohane from Ireland. Br. Stephen received us at the Lima airport at 12:00 am and had us to bed by 2:00 am.
We awoke early to a scrumptious simple breakfast of bread and fruit. Following breakfast we gather in the reflection room to talk about why we are here in Lima. The brothers broke us into two groups headed by Mr. Higdon and Mr. Hall and challenged
us to go out and map our little section of San Juan Lurigancho in which live 1.8 million people.
Brother Stephen wanted us to go out and investigate all the things that we would need if we lived here. Those things would include, where is the nearest grocery, doctor office and transportation to name a few. We gathered after an hour and the groups shared what they thought they needed and where they were located. I think the real purpose of this activity was to go out and see and be with the people in our barrio.
The young men did make a splash and were the object of many peoples stares, as our young men stood out in size and complexion. Then after lunch, we went for a walking tour of Lima, which included the 500 year old Franciscan Convent under which contain over 25,000 human remains in the catacombs. The young men were in awe and a little creeped out at the amount of bones.
We ended our tour with a reflection on our Gospel credibility and our own liberation and ability to work with the marginalized. The guys really shared from their hearts why they chose to come on our immersion trip and what mindset they could have as they go forward.
The boys took public transportation home and were as tight as sardines as we traveled for 30 minutes back to our home for a warm pasta dinner. Exhausted from a long night and day they played cards and went to bed, dreaming of what blessings are in store for them as they meet and build a home tomorrow for Senora Virginia and her family.
– Thane and James
I write from our home in Lima, where we have just finished our second day of immersion and service. Our day started with a simple breakfast (a recurring theme of our mornings) and a city bus ride (also a recurring theme) to Fe Y Alegria 26, the Edmund Rice school in the Canto Grande Region of Lima Peru. It is a Grade/High school with 1600 kids. The school acts as our home base, as we build our house on the surrounding mountains.
The house we made was for Senora Virginia and her family. It was roughly 80 steps up a municipality-made staircase to reach, which our young men had to carry 12 walls, roofing, and cross beam materials up to the build site. At the build site, our young men joined with the builder of our homes, Jorge, who guided them in setting up the house, as well as spraying down wood material with a termite repellent. The morning was spent spraying and assembling the house.
We then broke for a ham and cheese lunch (another recurring theme) back at the school and took a small siesta outdoors. Some boys were woken by students at the school who were excited to see our young men. In one case, a child screamed into a sleeping Rice student’s ear. The boys spent the rest of their siesta time chatting with the children.
For the afternoon, we were split into three teams. four boys attached roofing to the house, and the other 8 were split in half and visited inhabitants of the mountain near Fe Y Alegria. My group met Tanya who is a mother who peels beans and washes laundry to support her four children. We also learned of the culture of the mountain. The young men saw a lot.
Buenos Noches de Lima, Peru. Tonight we have returned to the Brothers House paint covered, tired and hungry after our day finishing Virginia’s house, spending the day at our school Fe y Alegria #26 and touring the barrio in which our school is located. Our return also brings us a deep appreciation for the lives we have and the new friends we have made along our journey. Palabras, or words, could not express the love and gratitude that Virginia expressed to our boys as we finished her new home. A place that keeps the cold wind and mist off her and her family and allows the warmth of their love to heat their home. I think our boys have a new appreciation of what goes into painting and they learned the art of painting with love as they wanted everything to be perfect for Virginia.
Our school was bustling as we got there at change time. This is a time that the 800 high school kids go home tired, and the 800 elementary kids come in excited for the possibilities of the new day. The change includes an entire change in faculty as well. Our school continues the tradition of Edmund Rice’s bake house as they feed a hearty lunch to many of their students. For many, this is their only substantial meal of the day. We, of course, had our simple breakfast and our ham and cheese lunch, in which the boys looked forward too, but understood that we are eating better than many here in Peru.
At lunch, there was a time for us to exchange smiles and handshakes with some of the curious elementary children who came to say hi to us.
After lunch was our now mandatory siesta in which we rested for a while before we began our afternoon activities. Some guys had the opportunity to help a fourth-grade class with Día de los Padres picture frames that were soccer themed. What really transpired was the opportunity for the guys to talk, laugh and interact with the students which brought smiles to all their faces.
For the past two days, we have scampered through town getting back and forth from the school to Virginia’s and back. This afternoon Brother Stephen and Brother Pablo took us on a walking tour of the barrio which included a stop at the outdoor market where people, mostly women in this culture, come to do their daily shopping. The USDA would have a field day citing all the violations of the chicken and beef sitting out unrefrigerated and uncovered. A most interesting delicacy was a chicken splayed open head and feet attached with two egg yolks among the inner organs. Needless to say, we did not dine in that! The real purpose of the tour was to get a sense of the hopes and dreams of the people of Peru as they spoke of the history and the future of this up and coming town and country. Most Peruvians work six-day weeks at 10 to 12 Hours or more a day to make ends meet and to provide for a better living for their children. Peru is a young country as the average age is 26.
Upon our return, the boys had a chance for a shower in preparation for our evening meal of squash soup and a meal called choca, chicken fried rice. The boys ate to their stomach’s content as they laughed and joked about their day with the Brothers and each other. Our evening ended with Brother Casey leading us through our evening prayer and reflection, which began with a song called Beautiful City and the question they ponder about is how the boys are building a beautiful city. The resounded answer was in the relationships that they have created. The also spoke on what has impacted them the most and again it was their relationships. Brother closed the reflection with the question, “Where is God in all this?” and the answer was, “in the faces and hearts of ALL who have warmly welcomed us to this wonderful country.”
Buenas Noches de Jicamarca, Peru. We are now at the easternmost part of Lima, about an hour bus ride from our last home at the Brothers in Las Flores. We awoke early to our simple breakfast and packed so we could move to our new endeavor in Jicamarca. After an hour bus ride, on a middle-sized non-city bus, which is hard to describe because they do not, and would not be able to operate in the states. On the bus trip, we encountered multiple people coming on to sell candy and pens and pencils and other things to anyone who was interested in them. We also had a couple of Pentecostal women come on and preach for 20 minutes during our trip.
We disembarked in a town that is only about ten years old, with mostly dirt roads and fewer inhabitants. The town is colder and in a higher valley at the foothills of the Andes. At the time we got there it was cloud covered and much cooler than Las Flores. We got ourselves situated in our rooms and settled in for a delicious sopa de gallina lunch or hen soup with potatoes and spaghetti noodles. The boys were hungry and fell in love with the soup. We are now in the home of Jose and Maribel; we have been living and working in this home for the last four years. The last time I was here three years ago, there was only one floor. Now there are three floors and an outdoor patio that we have taken our meals. There is also a nicer outhouse and a place to take a shower out of a bucket with cold water. We live as the family lives. This is our home for this part of the mission and groups from our Edmund Rice Network have been helping this family to build this house. The first floor is theirs while the second and third are used by our immersion groups.
After lunch, we heard about the life of Jorge, our new friend from Venezuela. He immigrated to Peru with his wife and son because of the political situation that is currently happening In Venezuela. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have immigrated to multiple countries in South and Central America. Following Jorge’s talk, we helped our next door neighbors, Tito and Rosa, move bricks to the top of their house so they could put up a mini wall to keep their two-year-old from falling off. Two months prior their two-year-old fell off a neighbor’s house and received 15 stitches.
We are the 8th group from the Edmund Rice Network to work on Tito and Rosa’s house, including Mrs. Carolyn Popp who helped to put in the foundation of the house a couple of year’s ago when she came down with the Pilgrims in Peru program run by the Brothers. Now they have a beautiful home to raise their children and their newly adopted niece who was no longer able to be taken care of by her parents. This was some of the hardest work the boys did and they accomplished it in a couple of hours which would have taken a month or more for Tito to finish. They brought up a couple hundred bricks and the cement needed to secure the bricks. It turned out to be a great core and shoulder workout for the guys.
Back at Jose and Maribel’s, we were welcomed to a delicious pasta and chorizo dinner that was delicious. We were able to eat with them and their six children, including Kevin who came home from college to meet our boys. Kevin really has grown up with the Brothers and helps by greeting and playing with the groups that come in. I have known Kevin for a long time and have seen his English skills grow and have seen him grow into an outstanding young man. A lot of this has to do with his connection to the Brothers.
After dinner and reflection in which we talked about our credibility as young people as it pertains to being missionaries here and back home, the young men shared about how they need to be more loving, open, accepting not only here but back home. A lot of this comes from their coming to know people as Jesus would know them where they are In this time and place
Our evening concluded with a pick-up fútbol game at a local pitch. The boys enjoyed playing with Kevin and his brothers as well as Tito and Rosa’s son and from time to time their dog. Tomorrow we begin early as we go to put in a cement floor for a local school.
Adiós y hasta mañana,
Today was our last day of work in the Jicamarca region of Lima. We woke early to a breakfast of bread and guacamole (score!) And left our house to travel down the hill, and down the road to a nearby preschool, run by some Irish nuns that the brothers have started to help. Our young men mixed, moved, and poured cement for the floor of what will soon be a new classroom for four-year-olds. It was our most demanding work day, but the Rice guys got it done by lunchtime. The sisters of the school provided lunch. We then walked back to the house, and our exhausted boys slept through their scheduled soccer time because of all the hard work they’ve done these past two days.
Our reflection focused on the idea that “We are prophets of a future not our own.” Our young men shared insight on the impacts of their actions and how they could focus them for good.
We had our reflection early to wait for our dinner, authentic Peruvian arroz con pollo, which may or may not be the reason I signed on to lead this trip this year. It is an amazing meal.
After dinner, we had what has turned into a bit of a tradition on our Peru immersions, the birthday party for our Peruvian neighbor Migale. Two years ago I was here for her 29th birthday. This year I’m here for her 29th birthday. Funny how that works. The boys shared cake with our host town and danced with the local ladies.
Tomorrow we return to our School Fe y Alegria 26 in Canto Grande to focus on Advocacy in a project with Peruvian students and students from the Edmund Rice school in Salinas California, Palma High School. This will be our last day of immersion before shifting our gears to sightseeing and trekking to Machu Picchu.
On Saturday, we had the opportunity to join with ten students from our school Fe y Alegría #26, and twelve students from Palma High School, our school in Salinas, California, to work together on an advocacy project dealing with the 17 Sustainable Goals set forth by the UN. The three schools split into groups, and shared together our research and looked for ways that we could work together to accomplish these goals in each of our schools. This was the first time the province schools met in this way to work jointly on a project.
After some icebreakers and getting to know each other, Brothers Stephen and Pablo, and Jorge, our Venezuelan friend, set the stage of our day together with a music video and a TED talk. Following this, the kids broke into six groups and worked on their particular goals. After much brainstorming, planning, and discussion presentations were given in Spanish and English. I was impressed by what they came up with and especially our young Peruvian friends who carried the day.
Lunch was a hit, and following lunch, we helped our school in their greening project at their school. Remember Lima is in a desert and the kids work really hard creating and maintaining green spaces. It was also interesting to see them growing lettuce hydroponically.
Of course, the day would not be complete without the young people playing sports together. Basketball and volleyball were the big hits for the day. Overall, the advocacy project was a huge success, and I hope we can do more of these projects whether in person or electronically.
Our Peruvian hosts helped to close the day with a prayer and all the students created a handprint with their unique gifts written on the fingers. These were the special gifts that we would bring to accomplishing our goals. Sadly, our day had to come to an end, and yes the parting was sweet sorrow. This immersion experience has been about relationships, and more were created as we exchanged contact information with our new friends.
We left our hosts, and the two Norte Americano schools joined together for dinner in a restaurant. After five days we were looking forward to “regular” food. Of course, we were not disappointed, but surprisingly, the highlight of the night was the grilled cow heart!
Then all reality was set aside as we rushed to get our luggage from the Brothers’ house and make our way back to Jicamarca as we embarked on our next part of the adventure.
On to being tourists. After two hours of sleep, that’s right two hours. We were awoken and put onto our minibus for our hour and a half trip to the airport in Lima. At 5:50am we were on our flight to Cuzco. We were met by our driver and guide and headed out to the town of Pisac, where there is an outdoor market not only for tourists but for the local Quechua people.
The guys had the opportunity of moving around the market to purchase trinkets for themselves and hopefully their families. Since it was Father’s Day, I did remind them of texting or calling dads as well as buying something for mom. Hope they accomplished this as well.
We did have some issues transitioning to the higher altitude, some more than others. We chewed coca leaves and candies to help. One student went down, and the Quechua women were all over him doting on him and using home remedies like eucalyptus leaves to sniff.
We went to mass in Quechua, it was Sunday and heard the readings and prayers in Quechua and the homily in Spanish, it was a struggle! The beauty of the Catholic liturgy is that no matter where you are, the mass is the same and the young men could follow along. We also saw two Quechua girls baptized during mass, that was beautiful!
Lunch and watching some of the Brazil game was our next priority. Most of the boys had a form of pizza for lunch and really enjoyed it. Next, it was off to some Incan ruins and a history lesson from our guide Nancy. On the way to the ruins, we had the opportunity to hang out and feed some alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas. It was a riot watching the boys feed the animals and trying not to get spit on. After a night of two hours sleep, the boys were exhausted from running up the side of a mountain at the ruins. It was a quiet trip back to Ollantaytambo where we are staying for the next two nights.
The boys jumped at the chance to shower, for a couple it’s been a few days, and they were smelling like the alpacas and llamas, so a warm shower was welcomed. We gathered for a late dinner and early bed because we have to be up early for our train to Machu Picchu. A good nights sleep will do all the boys well.
It was another early morning as we awoke at 6:00 am to eat, then began our short 20-minute walk to the train. Boarding the train at 7:15, we began our hour and a half train ride to the town of Aguas Caliente at the foot of the mountain. It is a beautiful train ride looking up at the enormous mountains as we traveled along the Inca Trail to our destination.
Once there, the young men and Mr. Higdon began the 1 1/2 hour trek up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. It was a nice day as they joyfully ascended the mountain. Once to the top, we entered the park with our guide Oracio who decided to call our young men “boys” and used that term about every five sentences. Which in turn the young men started to affectionately call him “padre”.
I think what they really wanted was to explore Machu Picchu on their own instead of the wonderful history lesson that Mr. Higdon and I were totally enthralled with.
Once our tour was over it was time for our boxed lunch we brought. Mr. Higdon then took the boys on a hike straight up to the Sun Gate, which was probably another hour up. An interesting point probably not seen by the young men was the amount of countries represented on Machu Picchu. I saw passports from Australia, England, Brazil, Japan, China, Germany, and France to name 7. All of them with local guides who speak their language!
Once back we spent a couple of hours eating again and shopping in the local market before boarding our train back to Ollantaytambo.
We gathered for a late 9:00 pm dinner in which they got to try cuy, Guinea Pig and Al Paca, some of the local delicacies. Most of the boys were not fans of the cuy especially since they saw their furry little faces earlier in the trip.
Our tourist part of this experience officially done, we will travel back to Cuzco today, possibly stop at the 500-year-old Jesuit Church (that has Cuy as the main course in a painting of the Last Supper) before we get to the airport as we begin our trip back home!
Adiós de Peru, gracias por sus oraciones y leyendo nuestro blog!
Señores Higdon and Hall